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Is sleep deprivation keeping you awake?

Sleep deprivation can seriously impact your health and wellbeing. Getting insufficient sleep, or poor quality sleep is seriously bad for you.  It can lead to fatigue, daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, clumsiness and weight gain.

Simple yoga and meditation practices can really help calm that restless mind and body and ease sleep deprivation.  Aromatherapy and breathing exercises are often useful too.  Here are some simple tips and suggestions to help with insomnia or sleep deprivation.

  • Count your breaths.  First notice your breaths, without particularly trying to change them at all.  Then count “one” in your head the next time you breathe out.  Then “two” after the next out-breath, and so on.  See if you can count all the way to ten without your mind wandering off.  Then start again at “one”.  Whenever you notice your mind has started thinking about something, just start counting again with “one”.  This simple meditation works really well for me when I have too many thoughts going round in my head.

  • Lie on the floor with your legs resting up against a wall.  Try to get your bottom as close as possible to the base of the wall.  Make sure your neck is relaxed.  Just rest here for a while.  It’s a great way to calm down and balance out the nervous system.  It’s one of my favourite yoga poses.

  • Try aromatherapy. Use a couple of drops of lavender essential oil on a tissue on your pillow.  Lavender is renowned for its ability to relax the nervous system and promote restful sleep.  You could also try taking a warm bath or shower with a couple of drops of lavender oil on a facecloth or mixed in with your bath or shower gel. I also love the Night Time Blend and Pillow Mist available from Neals Yard Remedies.

  • Rest in supported child’s pose.  This is another great yoga pose for stress and anxiety. Put a folded blanket under your knees, and kneel on the floor with your knees fairly wide apart.  Then place a firm cushion or bolster between your knees, and rest with the front of your body along the cushion.  This posture can help you feel safe and secure. It’s a great way to rest if you are suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation.

  • Visualise a safe and beautiful place.  Imagine all the scents, sounds and sights of a lovely place where you can enjoy relaxing in your mind.  Focus on making your happy place feel real.  This is a simple meditation which can help you release any worrying thoughts.

  • Try a herbal tea.  Chamomile is great for inducing restful sleep.  You might also like one of the many bedtime blends available. Have fun finding your favourite.

  • Stop trying so hard to sleep! Get out of bed and go to a different room.  This often helps break the pattern of thoughts going round in your head.  I usually go to the kitchen, make a soothing warm drink and browse through one of my favourite magazines.  After this I can normally relax enough to sleep.

  • Unwind properly before bed.  A simple pre-bed yoga routine, meditation practice or journalling about your day can help you let go of the day’s and relax the body.  This only needs to take ten minutes or so.  It’s good to leave the day’s worries behind before settling down for a restful night.

  • No phones in the bedroom! Our mobile phones emit blue light which keeps us awake, and they are a serious source of sleep deprivation.  Leave your phone in another room, and your mind will relax much more readily.  It’s nice to have a break from the constant flood of information.  Try reading a book before settling down to sleep instead of looking at your phone.

  • Avoid caffeine and cigarettes in the evening as these are stimulants.  Heavy meals and alcoholic drinks late in the evening make you feel sleepy, but then you often wake in the small hours once the initial effect has worn off, unable to get back to sleep. 

If you are still having trouble sleeping or worry that sleep deprivation is affecting your health, you would be wise to speak to your doctor or a specialist sleep professional. 

Karen Lawrence is a specialist Yin and Restorative Yoga teacher and Meditation instructor at The Calm Space Yoga in Essex.  She offers yoga and meditation classes, workshops and one to one support in South Essex.  This April she is running Better Sleep Workshops in Stock and Brentwood, Essex, as well as Yoga Nidra and Meditation classes.  You can book your space at a Better Sleep event here

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